We are trained from diaper years to consume more and produce less. Subconsciously, our minds have been tainted through “innocent” Disney cartoons and subliminal candy ads before we could even coherently form sentences.
But, this is changing!
Why millennials care less about stuff is a question that plagues social scientists and capitalists alike. But, the answer is quiet simple.
Millennials are waking up and smelling the very stink garbage that has been fed to them for ages, and are realizing that life is more than the stuff they own.
There are four factors that are instrumental in this cultural shift from generations before. Can you relate to any of them?
1. Stability is Old School
This is the age of the digital nomad. The Starbucks Entrepreneur. The Bali Dropshipper. The Santa Monica Beach Vlogger.
Technology has changed our concept of the world and life at large. We are no longer tied to desks, houses, and belongings. It has made us explorers, adventurers, and global citizens.
It is also largely due to the internet accessibility of mobile devices from almost anywhere in the world and the freedom that a digital nomadic lifestyle provides.
Millennials feel less obligated to a city, an office, a home or family, more so than generations before them, and are looking for flexible career options that allow them to explore the world while making money.
There is no need to have “stuff” when you live out of a suitcase.
2. The Concept of Home is Changing
The American Dream definition taken from the 1950’s basically states “the dream is to have a perfect family, secure job and a nice house in the suburbs.”
This dream provided motivation of sorts for low income, middle-class citizens to work their asses off in the hopes that they will one day join the upper ranks.
According to a Fox Business article from March 2017, millennials are investing less in homes and renting more. Homeownership no longer has the clout it did for their parents. It is seen as an obstacle to true freedom and a debt-free life.
Technology has also played a big part in this shift as it has allowed the development of a thriving sharing economy. The success of Airbnb and its competitors, speaks to how millennials are opting for more affordable living options which enable them to live without much responsibility.
3. Experiences Matter
Economists are worried that millennials are not spending enough, but this could not be farther from the truth. They have just shifted their spending habits away from tangible goods to intangible experiences.
The travel and entertainment industries have grown enormously in recent years, due to millennials traveling, partying and concert-going a lot more.
It is considered much cooler to show off your dirty, sweaty T-shirt from Coachella now than it was in the 60’s. Back then, entertainment, travel, the building of social relationships and creation of family bonds took a backseat as parents toiled away to build the “American Dream.”
However, millennials are changing that mindset, and are living lives full of memories, laughter, adventure and zero regret.
Hence, experiences will grow in value for the young adults who are buying less stuff and even making it a lifestyle.
4. Minimalism is Becoming the New Norm
The minimalist lifestyle trend that started in the mid-2000’s is slowly starting to influence not only affluent lifestyle enthusiasts but also millennials.
Similar to the decision of non-home ownership, acquiring little to no belongings when you do decide to rent or buy is important to adopt a clutter-free life.
A capsule wardrobe, a tiny house or apartment, a greater connection with nature, and items that focus on functionality are some of the attributes of minimal living.
In a 2016 Forbes article entitled Millennials Go Minimal: The Decluttering Lifestyle Trend That is Taking Over, Robin Lewis of the Robin Report states:
“This is a generation that is bigger than the boomers in population, but their wallets are smaller, and they are more into the style of life than the stuff of life. This is a big threat to retail. They’re not into a lot of shopping.”
Millennials are pricing minimalism and simplicity over assets such as home goods, houses, fast-fashion, and cars. Less is more has become the new mantra, and the best way to express this is to become a minimalist.
The Generation Y (as they are scientifically called) population is not only abandoning societal traditions but making totally new ones.
They are defining themselves not by material possessions, but more so through things that add value to their lives and the environment around them.
For millennials, it is less about ownership and more about freedom, limited responsibility, and fulfillment.